Labour Weekend is traditionally the big time for the vegetable garden plant out, unless you live inland in areas which get late frosts. Certainly in coastal areas, it should be safe now to get pretty well all crops and small plants out into the open. If you are taking plants out from covered conditions in a glasshouse, they may need some hardening off if by some miracle we have warm sunny weather. Give them a couple of hours in the sun and then cover them up with shade cloth or newspaper or any other light cover to stop the sun from burning tender foliage.
- You can now sow direct into the ground such tender crops as melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin and capsicum but you will get more growth if you start them off in containers in a glasshouse. Corn can be sown straight into the garden now and repeating this fortnightly through the season will extend the supply. It is the same with successional sowings of dwarf beans, peas and lettuces. Get main crop potatoes in and start the kumaras.
- If you have veg plants in pots under cover, take care that they do not get stunted in their growth by getting dry, starved or too big for their pots. Crops like corn never fully recover from being set back and will respond to stress by bolting into flower early as small plants.
- If you are planning to plant hedges, trees or shrubs, get onto it as soon as possible so the plants have a chance to settle in and make some new root growth before we get an extended dry period. We can warm up and dry out alarmingly quickly in early November, especially close to the coast. Ensure that the root ball of the plant is wet through and lay mulch on top of the soil to slow drying out.
- All gardens will benefit from laying mulch. This needs to go on before the soil dries out, not after. A good mulch adds humus to the soil and stops it from getting parched and cracking.
If the weeding calls you, take note of Christopher Lloyd’s comments: Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find it a kind of soothing monotony. It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative’s latest example of unreasonableness.